Sunday, July 26, 2020

Crossing of the Barr (Also, Jonathan Turley Is Still a Hack)

Don't know whose this is.

A couple of developments in the Justice Department investigation of the prehistory of the Justice Department investigation of Donald Trump: the apparent identification of Christopher Steele's Primary Sub-Source, which I'll get to in a moment, and another surfaced document, this one supplied to Senators Chuckles Grassley and Ron Johnson (same Sherlocks who unmasked the unmasking of General Flynn in the celebrated report of the calls with Ambassador Flynn that turned out not to have been masked in the first place).

The latter is another FBI internal report, which according to Jonathan Turley (guesting in John Solomon's old spot at The Hill),
shows the FBI used a security briefing of then candidate Donald Trump and top aides to gather possible evidence for Crossfire Hurricane, its code name for the Russia investigation.
Namely, it's a report of the first Intelligence Community briefing received by candidate Trump, in the FBI's New York field office, accompanied by his national security adviser Mike Flynn (because, WaPo reported, Flynn was "somebody that I believe in") and his body man Governor Chris Christie on 17 August 2016, the day after the FBI opened its Crossfire Razor investigation of Flynn, as it happens,
based upon “an articulable factual basis that [he] may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.”  That, in turn, was predicated upon an assessment of “reliable” lead information, including that Flynn had been a foreign policy adviser to Trump since February 2016; that he “had ties to various state-affiliated entities of the Russian Federation”; that he traveled to Russia in December 2015; and that he had an active TS/SCI security clearance.
And the briefing when they say Trump was first told about the evidence of Russian hacking of the DNC emails, though in fact it was not, or at least not part of the FBI's portion (other officials from the Office of the DNI also spoke, but they aren't likely to have said much either; "[Frank] Montoya and other former FBI officials told NBC News the FBI would not have wanted to compromise that investigation by saying too much in the counterintelligence briefing of Trump").

The document comes from Flynn's file as Crossfire Razor in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and is being released as Republican evidence, as Turley suggests, of how the FBI was "spying on" the Trump campaign, and it is written by Joe Pientka, who gave the FBI's portion of the briefing, and makes it entirely clear, as a matter of fact, that nothing was said about possible Russian interference in the election, other than to advise the three of them that "if you are not already a target of a Foreign Intelligence Service,  due to the fact you are receiving this classified briefing, you will be."

The briefing was in fact at a very general level, as was probably appropriate to the candidate:

Flynn, on the other hand, has a chip on his shoulder, and wants it understood that he's informed already:

(HVEs are Homegrown Violent Extremists.) And following another warning—"a Foreign Intelligence Service would not necessarily target you technically to gain access to the classified material you were briefed on, but you will be targeted to gain sensitive and personal information about you"—
These three clips constitute 100% of the "possible evidence" FBI "gathered" during the briefing. They may have been surprised to learn about young Barron's computer genius, but they were only a little over a week ahead of the general public, which heard of it during the 26 September debate:
"I have a son. He's 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable," Trump volunteered at his first debate with Hillary Clinton. "The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it's hardly doable."
They undoubtedly already knew that the former Director of National Intelligence had "done SIGINT" too. So I have my doubts on Turley's accusations. If anything, Pientka and the Bureau were setting up a paper trail to show they had made every effort to stop Trump and Flynn from colluding with Russians, with the repeated cautions. Flynn could have said something about his own Russian contacts—"is that the kind of thing you're worried about?"—but instead he lost his temper, which caused some comment at the time—

four people with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that one of the advisers Trump brought to the briefing, retired general Mike Flynn, repeatedly interrupted the briefing with pointed questions.

Two sources said Christie, the New Jersey governor and Trump adviser, verbally restrained Flynn — one saying Christie said, “Shut up,” the other reporting he said, “Calm down.” Two other sources said Christie touched Flynn’s arm in an effort get him to calm down and let the officials continue. Requests for comment from Flynn and Christie were not immediately returned.

And afterwards he and Trump lied about what had happened at the briefing, telling press that the intelligence community had expressed its "unhappiness" with Obama

“What I did learn,” Trump said, “is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow ... what our experts said to do ... And I was very, very surprised.

“I could tell — I’m pretty good with body language — I could tell they were not happy.”

Timothy Barrett, a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence, declined to comment Thursday on Trump’s characterization.

However, a U.S. official pointed out that intelligence officers don’t give policy advice, so it would be inaccurate to say that Obama failed to follow the advice of the intelligence community. A second U.S. official said analysts are trained not to allow their body language to betray their thinking....

In an interview on TODAY, Flynn was asked whether he saw what Trump claims he did at the briefing.

“I sure a very specific way,” Flynn said, though he went on to say that his conclusion was based not on body language but on intelligence officials drawing distinctions between the content of their briefing and White House policy.

As the new material shows, it was actually Flynn who was expressing his unhappiness, body language and all, just at the moment when they were all being told to be careful about hanging out with Russians, and it's easy to imagine the agents might have wondered why he was acting so guilty, especially in light of the investigation opened the day before (Peter Strzok's approval is on both documents). What you can't say is that the FBI made any effort to use the briefing to trap Flynn in anything—to the contrary, they persistently gave him advice that would have kept him out of trouble if he'd followed it. 

And they hadn't even invited him! It was Trump's idea.

Marcy (who got much of my argument ahead of me, naturally) also points out:
At the time Pientka gave this briefing, Flynn was finalizing the details of a deal with Turkey, using a businessman the government has credibly accused of being an agent of Turkey to cover up the Turkish government’s direct role in the deal. In his grand jury testimony, Flynn described knowing almost nothing of Ekim Alptekin when he pursued this deal.

Meanwhile, the outing of Steele's Primary Sub-Source looks to have been plotted elaborately, and very unethically, by Barr:

The F.B.I. had approached the expert, a man named Igor Danchenko, as it vetted the dossier’s claims. He agreed to tell investigators what he knew with an important condition, people familiar with the matter said — that the F.B.I. keep his identity secret so he could protect himself, his sources and his family and friends in Russia.

But his hope of remaining anonymous evaporated last week after Attorney General William P. Barr directed the F.B.I. to declassify a redacted report about its three-day interview of Mr. Danchenko in 2017 and hand it over to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Graham promptly made the interview summary public while calling the entire Russia investigation “corrupt.”

The report blacked out Mr. Danchenko’s name and other identifying information. But within two days, a post on a newly created blog entitled “I Found the Primary Subsource” identified him, citing clues left visible in the F.B.I. document. A pseudonymous Twitter account created in May then promoted the existence of the blog. And the next day, RT, the Kremlin-owned, English-language news and propaganda outlet, published an article amplifying Mr. Danchenko’s identification.

Almost as if it were meant as a warning to anybody who might want to serve as an anonymous source or whistleblower—if it involves Trump, your privacy will not be respected.

I think this is also a clue as to why Barr and the Republican senators wanted it out, as a way of discrediting the dossier still further. Getting The Times to remark, for instance

Mr. Danchenko’s identity is noteworthy because it further calls into question the credibility of the dossier. By turning to Mr. Danchenko as his primary source to gather possible dirt on Mr. Trump involving Russia, Mr. Steele was relying not on someone with a history of working with Russian intelligence operatives or bringing to light their covert activities but instead a researcher focused on analyzing business and political risks in Russia.
Which has the effect of making me wonder if there's something true in the dossier that they're still anxious to hide.


The FBI used Trump adviser Carter Page as the basis for the original FISA application, due to his contacts with Russians. After that surveillance was approved, however, federal officials discredited the collusion allegations and noted that Page was a CIA asset. Clinesmith had allegedly changed the information to state that Page was not working for the CIA.
Turley seems to be confused about what a FISA application is; Page wasn't a "basis" for it that they chose out of a list of possibilities, but its target—the person whose conversations they wanted permission to record, because of reports that he had been in communication with the head of Gazprom, Igor Sechin, and the intelligence official Igor Diveykin, on his trip to Moscow in July 2016, where he delivered a ferociously pro-Putin speech. Page had never "worked for the CIA", and certainly wasn't working for it in any sense at the time of the FISA application. He had been an occasional "operational contact" of the CIA from 2008 through 2013, which is when he turned up as Male-1 in a series of intercepts of Russian spies:
[Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practise the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on [the Russian state energy company] Gazprom, thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious he wants to earn loads of money.
They didn't manage to recruit him, but I think it's clear that's why the CIA dropped him. And it's why FBI began the process of putting him under investigation before he joined the Trump team:

It was a very bad thing on Kevin Clinesmith's part to create a false document suggesting that Page had no previous relationship with the CIA, but he only did it to cover his ass (for having omitted the fact from a previous application); knowing the fact would have made no difference to the success of the FISA application.

Strzok is the FBI agent whose violation of FBI rules led Justice Department officials to refer him for possible criminal charges. Strzok did not hide his intense loathing of Trump and famously referenced an “insurance policy” if Trump were to win the election.
The campaign for a criminal referral against Strzok, like the even more vindictive and unjustified campaign against Andrew McCabe, is led by Trump and Barr, and has no merit. As we've seen from recent document dumps, Strzok was ridiculously slow to get the investigation going on any aspect other than Carter Page until May 2017 and the firing of FBI director Comey. Or as Marcy put it,
Biden reportedly suggested using the Logan Act, a law widely seen as unconstitutional and never been used to successfully convict a single person, as an alternative charge against Flynn.
LOL, that "been" needs to be cut to make the sentence grammatical. "Widely seen" means what Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner name more accurately:
President Trump’s defenders have responded that the Logan Act is “overly broad” to the point of being unconstitutional.
Viz., Fox News anchor Greg Jarrett. Hemel and Posner showed very clearly how it would apply to Flynn in particular in December 2017:
According to court filings, Flynn—acting at the direction of a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team—reached out to the Russian ambassador to the United States and urged Russia to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. There is no indication that the Obama administration implicitly acquiesced to this contact, nor is there any doubt that the Russian ambassador qualifies as an officer or agent of a foreign government. While others have questioned whether this was an effort to defeat a U.S. “measure” (the United States did not introduce the resolution, and it abstained in the ultimate vote), Flynn’s action clearly was an effort to influence Russian conduct in relation to a decades-old dispute between the United States and Israel regarding the West Bank settlements. (Note that the Logan Act would apply to an effort to influence Russian conduct in relation to “any disputes or controversies” with the United States; the fact that the relevant “dispute” was with Israel rather than with Russia would not seem to be dispositive.)

the Obama administration had been told that the basis for the FISA application was dubious and likely false
I don't know how he thinks he can answer a question Inspector General Horowitz pointedly refused to ask:

the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller and inspectors general found no evidence of collusion or knowing contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
That's the lie Barr told a month before he allowed the Mueller report to be seen by the public. Mueller was unable to prove criminal coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, partly because of the lies and refusal to cooperate of numerous witnesses, including Trump himself (in the course of committing his 10 or 11 counts' worth of obstruction of justice), Paul Manafort, in prison for lying, and Roger Stone, pardoned last month. There's plenty of collusion and even more of knowing contact.

Turley is such a hack.

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